After Years of ‘Suspended Animation’ One Artist Sharpens His Focus
Toni Hariyanto’s illustrations don’t look like drawings; they look like photographs.
The 55-year-old father of two has dedicated his golden years to refining a specific artistic skill: producing drawings that look as realistic as possible. His ability to imitate photos by hand makes him one of Indonesia’s few photorealistic artists and has earned him Internet fame.
Toni’s expertise generated popularity online within “deviantArt,” an online art community. Every day, staff members pick a handful of pieces of art, from millions that are posted, to showcase as a featured image. Toni has had three drawings featured since 2008.
In addition to receiving those accolades, he also gets praise from group members, who have referred to him as the “Pencil God” or the “Realism Granddaddy.”
Toni says that he spends 10 hours a day drawing, but that, when it comes to art, perception is more important than skill.
Although Toni now spends the majority of his days pursuing this passion, he said that for years he had to suppress his artistic desires.
Toni does not hide the fact that, before retirement, things didn’t always work out the way he had wished. Growing up in the 1960s, neither family nor friends were very supportive of his art. In college, he spent uneventful years studying architecture, a subject for which he had no passion. During these early years, Toni found his only semblance of satisfaction through music and drag racing.
Still, even these pastimes eventually ran their course and Toni wanted to quench his artistic thirst. He decided to move to Yogyakarta, where he began training under Prof. Dr. Tulus Warsito, one of the country’s most renowned batik artists. Eventually, Toni was promoted to a secretarial position to his mentor, and before long he began designing and selling his own batik designs in Pekalongan, Central Java.
Toni managed to sustain his artistic career when he married a few years later. His designs were printed on a variety of objects, including shirts and paintings. Once his daughters were born, however, Toni needed a more stable line of work, so he took a job at a state-owned enterprise.
It was, in Toni’s words, “anything but ideal,” and he calls the next 20 years of office work “suspended animation.” When he had free time, he would go back to drawing. This is when he rediscovered his love for photorealistic illustrations.
To stay sane during this time, Toni founded a mountain motor-riding community called “Thrill” with some friends, all of whom were professionals in a variety of fields. When it came to art, Toni admits to feeling insecure around his friends at first. But eventually he managed to overcome his anxieties and one day gave his fellow bikers CDs filled with his photorealistic drawings.
The feedback he received was more than generous, and one his friends directed him to deviantArt, where he eventually set up an account. Around this time, Toni was also forced into retirement by his office — which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The reactions that Toni has received to his art have reignited his belief in it. As well as drawing, he is passionate about educating the art community on the true value of art. “Too many local artists hold exhibitions for the money, when it should represent achievements,” he says.
These days, Toni gives lectures and teaches drawing in a variety of places, including the blossoming Carrot Academy in Depok. From observing his students, he sees a tendency to view drawing as merely “goofing around,” whereas digital art is usually taken more seriously. Because most students prefer digital work, he finds that they usually lack basic illustration skills. “I want to change these paradigms” he says.
According to Toni, realistic drawing skills should be mastered by all prospective artists because it sharpens all basic drawing needs, especially observational and formulaic. Most of his own drawings are done using just pencil.
But all academic wishes aside, through drawing, Toni has found a new lease on life — one that he knows will keep him busy from here on out.
“I was dead for 20 years at a job I didn’t like, but now I have returned to life”.
Toni’s website is at toniart57.deviantart.com